A collection of thoughts and resources to help educators stay effective and fresh.

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I should begin by letting you in on the fact that I am the Queen of an ADHD Kingdom I like to call the Allred Family Circus. Honestly, every single person in my family has ADHD and 3 of the 4 of us also have anxiety. What does that mean for this well-educated and responsible mom? My life is crazy and it is all I can do to get us all where we need to be at the right time with the right stuff and maintain a reasonable home.  It is an exhausting roller coaster of somewhat organized chaos.

The ONLY way I keep things together is by using a planner to keep up with everything and a family calendar that I update weekly.  Recently I added a new tool to help us keep it together, a large whiteboard where I keep lists of our most important to-dos and weekly activities.  This has been my saving grace!

I “made” this board myself using white wallboard from Lowes (very cheap) washi tape, and adhesive vinyl.  When I bought the board a Lowes I had them cut it to fit on the inside of the door to my garage. This guarantees that every time I head out to the car, I see a big visual reminder of everything!

I used washi tape to fancy up the edge of the board and add some divisions. Then I used my Cricut to cut headings for the sections of the board. Now all I have to do is fill in the sections with dry erase marker, which wipes off easily when it’s time to change something.

This visual reminder may not be chic home decor, but it helps us keep it together, and that is what matters most!

Check out my board:

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Educators have notoriously stressful jobs, and as a result teacher burnout is a frighteningly real problem.  Between state and district guidelines, paperwork, a lack of resources, students living in troubled homes, teachers carry a heavy load. As a result, teachers desperately need some way to relieve this stress in order to keep themselves physically and mentally healthy.

Informal art therapy has been something of a “magic pill” for me. Several years ago I became aware of doodling style drawing called Zentangle.  Zentangle is an art from that grew from the doodles that many of us have always done on the corners of our papers.  At it’s simplest, Zentangle involves using geometric shapes to create patterns. These patterns can range from very simple to complex, and can be simple black and white or colorful.  It is possible to simply recreate or copy any of the multitude of official Zentangle patterns or create custom patterns.  The beauty of this art form is that there is no pressure to make it look like something realistic; whatever you create is “right.”

Zentangle drawing can be very relaxing, allowing you to focus full on drawing the lines and letting go of other things that clutter your mind and cause stress. Really it is a form of meditation using the act of drawing lines to create focus rather than focusing on breathing.

The best way to understand what Zentangle is and how it can help is to try it out yourself. So work with me to create a simple Zantangle drawing by following along with this tutorial.

Materials: blank paper or a device with drawing function, black marker, pencil (optional)

Step 1

thread

Step 2

pebbles

 

 

 

 

Step 3grid for sunbeam

 

 

 

 

Step 4

 

Step 5

 

Step 6

square spirals

 

Completed

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When I pulled up my blog site this past week, I knew that  had been away for a while and needed to get back at my writing. I didn’t realize just how long it had been though!

It has been almost 3 years since I last helloposted! Wow!

I do know for sure how that happened…. After my last post 3 years ago, a major change affected my school and my job. Our long time principal moved to another school. The following year, I struggled to adapt and help my faculty adapt to a new administrator.  Then as that school year drew to a close, we learned that we would have yet another administration change.

Changes in leadership can be tough on a school. Even when the new leader is FABULOUS, it takes lots of mental energy and hard work to adapt to new expectations and leadership style.  So why haven’t I been present in the blogg-iverse?  I was too busy adapting.

In that time, I have learned so many things and rekindled a love of music and creating art. As a result, I feel the need to make sure that my bpog not only features education posts, but also posts exploring the hobbies and activities that help us live.

So, I’m back at it!  I look forward to chatting with you all!

Sarah


You may have heard that old saying that says something about putting lipstick on a pig. Well, in my last post I talked about playing a BINGO game during End of Year test training to add an element of fun. That is a nice touch, but I’m a realist – that is little more than “lipstick on a pig.”  The faculty still ends up sitting throngh listening to essentially a lecture on material that a) is less than interesting, b) they are forced to participate in even though they don’t want to, c) many have already been through multiple times before, d ) they could figure out themselves by reading the manual anyway.
I do respect teachers’ time and intelligence, but the state requires me to do this training anyway. Needless to say, it’s going to take more than BINGO to liven things up!

Plan 2- Make it Tropical

To remind us all that the end (and summer vacation) is near, I arranged for some simple tropical refreshments. Lime punch, tropical fruit trail mix , a selection of cookies, and some cute “beachy” decorations were available as faculty arrived. I also found a great Hawaiian luau station on Pandora to play to set the mood before we started.  Hopefully this reminded the faculty they were appreciated and helped take minds off some of the stresses of testing season.

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Plan 3- Show Instead of Tell

One thing I hate about professional development is that so often we are instructed on great best practices and strategies to use with students, but when it comes to our own learning, trainers do the exact opposite and go right back to the lengthy lectures.
According to the test manual, teachers were to have read it prior to training . It really wouldn’t be respectful of their time to sit there and go through it page by page. (Yes, I know that a good percentage of the staff never opened the book prior to training. Another issue entirely I agree.) Rather than wasting valuable time and insulting the staff’s intelligence, I chose to spend time reviewing important key procedures and looking carefully at the few changes.
Rather than telling or reading what is expected of test administrators , my awesome principal, assistant principal, and guidance counselor assisted by doing some dramatic modeling in the form of a comedy skit. One dressed and played the role of “bad test administrator” another was “bad proctor” and the third was “bad test taker.”  They acted out all the what N0T to do items to prompt our discussion.
Being something totally unexpected from them made this activity a hit. They did everything imaginable that you don’t want to see in a testing situation: teacher late with an inappropriate t-shirt and a soda, the proctor’s phone ringing, and the student taking a selfie.
This allowed us to go over all these critically important security issues, and have a great laugh about it instead of getting more stressed about testing.  The faculty got to visualize what shouldn’t happen and they definitely won’t forget their principals acting so silly anytime soon.


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One of the many (insert sarcastic tone here) wonderful duties I have inherited this year with my new role a school Test Coordinator is to provide training for staff to be test administrators for the end of year tests. All I can think of as I begin my planning is the numerous training sessions I have sat through, which were boring at best, and down right nerve wracking at worst. Add on top of that the fact that it’s something that teachers have to do that they don’t really want to, and I know the odds are against me in my attempt to always provide training that is relevant, informative, and respectful of teachers’ time.  Sigh… I really want to avoid failing miserably which I would equate to having the faculty leaving training with their heads hung low dreading the testing days even more due to the confusion or stress I have piled upon them.  As a result, my plan for “Test Training that Doesn’t Suck” was born.  My next few posts will share my attempts to make our test training this year “not suck,” or at least, suck a little less!

Plan 1- Play!  

A friend of mine told me about a game he and some colleagues play to amuse themselves during staff meetings called Buzz Word BINGO. Essentially they make BINGO cards with common education buzzwords, and unknowing to most of the staff at the meeting, listen for the words and play BINGO during the meeting. (funny and a little bit rebellious, huh?)

So I thought during our training session, we could play Testing Lingo BINGO!  I made Bingo cards on a free bingo making site (http://bingo.saksena.net) using a word list I created. I included this list for you below. I have collected up a bunch of small items to use as BINGO prizes – I think I may hit up the PTO as well.

Now during training, folks will have a reason to listen in instead of playing Candy Crush on their phone, or grading papers …. they will want to win some of the great junk (err… prizes) I have to give away.  

Administering the end of year tests is serious business we all know, but we don’t have to go at it like we are facing doom and destruction, having a little fun can go a long way to relieving some of the stress we feel at the end of the school year, and if it makes us pay more attention to the training too, then double win!

 

My Testing Lingo BINGO Terms:

administrator, bubble sheet, test manual, code of ethics, accommodations, testing site, proctor, irregularity, misadministration, misalignment, score, extended time, make up test, EOG, NCFE, Final Exam, retest, evaluate, security, confidential, modification, document, maximum time, count, paper clip, calculator active, reading selection, test form, test editing, assessment, mark in book, read aloud, procedures, roving proctor, testing environment, monitor, standard 6, teacher evaluation, IEP, 504, LEP, number 2 pencil, calculator inactive, gridded response, test training, testing session, responsibility, confidential, test coordinator

 

 



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